Apollo celebrates moon landing 50 years ago with town party
Apollo was moonstruck Saturday — in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing.
Braving brutally hot temperatures under clear skies Saturday, hundreds gathered at Owens Grove and the surrounding grounds to eat, play, learn and reminisce about the day two American astronauts stepped onto the moon.
Presented by the Apollo Area Historical Society, Apollo Hose Company No. 2, the Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation and the Apollo Area Lions Club, the annual event took on a more nostalgic theme this year.
“It’s a really energetic event,” said Sue Ott, vice president of the historical society. “This was a collaborative effort between our organizations and we wanted to present an event that feels a little like 50 years ago — with old fashioned events like free nostalgic games for the kids.”
Free children’s events offered included a water balloon toss, marshmallow spoon race, duck pond, bucket toss, hula hoop jumps and rolls and more.
Apollo Postmaster Dale Walker was busy providing hand canceled postmarks to eager moon landing celebrants like Apollo native David Knappenberger, 65, who traveled from his home in North Carolina specifically to attend the celebration.
“Coming from Apollo, Pennsylvania in Armstrong County — this was important to me,” said Knappenberger, referencing astronaut Neil Armstrong’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. “I used to skip school to watch the launches and landings. And I recall waiting and waiting on that day to get updates.
“And then, finally, I saw this grainy, black-and-white image on the television.”
The borough of Apollo first celebrated the landmark moon landing on July 21, 1969, a day after Armstrong’s and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s lunar stroll. Apollo’s original celebration included a parade and special U.S. postmark — and they’ve been celebrating ever since.
A day packed with activities
Events this year included an Apollo 11 interactive journey through the solar system, live entertainment, rock climbing wall, pizza and ice cream eating contests, an Air Force virtual jet engine display, food trucks, battle of the barrel fire hose competitions between local area volunteer fire departments, a car cruise, quilt show and an educational exotic pet presentation by “That Guy With The Birds.”
Lukas Cyphert, 11, of North Apollo scarfed down an entire cheese pizza the fastest, winning first place during the pizza-eating contest. He took home gift certificate from sponsor Fox’s Pizza.
“It was fun,” Lukas said. “I entered the contest because I knew I could be first!”
The festivities ran from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“We enjoyed the flea market this year, that was new,” said longtime moon landing attendee Jessica Moon, 31, of Kiski Township. “I wasn’t born when they landed on the moon but we go every year and it’s always nice and the kids have fun.”
Those unable to attend Saturday may receive the commemorative hand-stamped postmark, available at the post office in Apollo until Aug. 20.
Apollo residents Joe Kerr Jr. and Dolly McCoy provided the art designs for the commemorative stamp and envelope.
“We were motivated to provide this because it is the 50th anniversary,” said Walker, the postmaster.
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.